At some point in your military journey, you will find yourself preparing for you first PCS (Permanent Change of Station). Military moves, with their paperwork and jargon, can be intimidating, but with a little knowledge and preparation you can get a solid running start on a smooth move.
Whether you are a single service member or PCSing with your family, it is important to be prepared and organized. Sometimes, you will have plenty of notice before your move. Other times, the military might give you very little time to prepare – a few weeks, maybe. Getting started with that preparation will make that process even easier.
This, too, shall pass. Take each moment in stride, one step at a time and know that sooner rather than later you will be completely settled and this will be but a memory. — Amy Bushatz, editor of Military.com’s SpouseBuzz
Before You Have Orders
Perhaps the most useful thing you can do to prepare for your eventual PCS is to take the the time you are stabilized at an installation to save money. While there are PCS reimbursements and payments intended to cover the cost of military-ordered moving, there are always unforeseen expenses and some things are not covered. Not sure how much you should save for your PCS? Take a look at the budget page of AHRN.com’s 2015 PCS Toolkit (page 6) to get an estimate. Having that PCS savings will give you the flexibility to make a move that works for you!
If you own your home, put some thought into whether you will sell your home or become military landlords. There are pros and cons to either direction and your choice will be impacted by your individual circumstances and the market for your home.
Resources before you have orders
Once You Know Where You’re Headed
In the most likely scenario, you will hear from your branch manager or detailer (each service has their own name for the person who assigns the slots!) 3-6 months before your expected move date. The timing will depend on promotions, reenlistment, career progression or simply needs of the military. Your first knowledge of your new assignment will likely be an RFO (or request for orders). Although these are not paper orders and can not be used to schedule many of the necessary briefs, you can start to plan your timeline and research your new installation.
If you haven’t already figured out a PCS budget, now is the time to do it! This is also a good time to start on your Pre-PCS To Do list. Not sure where to start? The PCS Toolkit has a checklist organized by date with accompanying tasks to get you started. Remember to give yourself as much cushion as possible by knocking out what you can early. The last 30 days before your PCS will likely be very busy with clearing and the last minute aspects of moving. Save yourself the stress by tackling things like de-cluttering your home, renewing your drivers license, and making any necessary doctor appointments while you have plenty of time.
Resources once you know where you’re headed
- Start thinking about your housing options at your new installation: on base or off?
- Start your research and home search by creating a search profile on AHRN.com to search based on your preferences and BAH
Orders In Hand
Yes! You (likely, finally!) have orders in hand and can really get the ball rolling. Now, it’s time to really get things done. These 5 To Dos can get you started! Also, check in with your personnel section – every unit has its own process for PCSing that includes briefs and timelines. The order that you will get things done will be determined by that process. Key is scheduling your Household Goods packout and transportation as quickly as possible. If you plan to take leave as part of your PCS, get your leave request filed as soon as possible once you have orders in hand.
From there, it is a matter of walking through the steps: giving notice if you are renting or in on base house, closing out utility accounts, forwarding your mail and making a solid plan for house at your new installation.
Resources for once you have orders
- Getting serious about finding your new home, don’t be afraid to interview your potential landlords to find the right fit.
- Decide if a PPM (or DITY) move is right for you
- Try these tips for a strategic out process
The Pack Out
Pack out day, whether you opted for a government or PPM move, can be hectic and exhausting. You’ll want to make a plan for pets, kids, and meals. It is not necessary to tip the government contracted movers but many military families choose to offer lunch and drinks (hot or cold based on the season). Keep in mind that someone will have to be present to supervise the movers and keep track of the movers’ inventory. Keep in mind that you’ll want to hold onto something to sit on – by the end of the day, there won’t be anything left! Camp chairs are a good option!
Get colored tape for each room. Ask the movers to pack each room and leave the boxes inside there. When they’re done, wrap tape around each one and you’ll automatically know if the boxes are in the right spot at the next house. Movers are notorious for dropping boxes anywhere they want. Kristine, KristineSpeaks.com
Crate your pets in a “safe room” or even take them to another person’s house. — Kate
Resources for the pack out
- Minimize packing/unpacking confusion with these moving life hacks
On The Move
Remember as you travel to keep every receipt! Proof of your spending is key to getting expenses reimbursed. Plan your gas and meal stops on the outskirts of larger cities, sticking well lit and populated options. There have been instances of packed cars and moving vans being stolen out of restaurant and hotel parking lots, so choose your stopping places with security in mind.
I highly recommend walkie talkies (or an app) to communicate from separate vehicles without texting. My #1 tip would be to enjoy the journey, laugh at whatever you can, and make memories along the way! — Janelle, Come Fly With Us
Resources for travel day
- While you’re traveling, you might as well make your PCS a vacation
- Make the most of your travel with a partial-PPM
Do NOT let the movers unpack your things!! We just experienced our first PCS a month ago and everyone told us to let the movers unpack our things. I know now why that is s horrible idea. They unpacked everything and left it in piles. I had breakables and glass all over my living room where my 16 month played, a pile literally to the ceiling of stuff they just dumped and through on the bed, and piles around the house that we are still “unpacking.” Instead let them move everything in and unpack and put together the big things. Have then leave all boxes for you and unpack a few daily. Much less mess to clean up! – Kathryn, www.singingthroughtherain.net
Resources for getting settled
- Make a bucket list of things to do in the area – check with MWR and look through our Installation Features to see what other service members are enjoying!
- Try searching out some opportunities to shop local like farmer’s markets, restaurants on Urban Spoon or small boutiques.
- If you choose a government move, you might need to negotiate a PCS claim